Annie Bostrom is an associate editor in adult books at Booklist, the book review journal of the American Library Association. She served as chair for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction committee, which selected Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers and Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir as its winning titles. She lives in Chicago.
RaveBooklistThis is a love story short on romance but long on its intoxication, related uninhibitedly by its self-aware narrator. Nolan, who writes a column for the UK’s New Statesman, plumbs her narrator’s emotions and experiences of love, sex, and solitude for a full portrait of the woman and her insightful preoccupation with being made \'real\' by love or some other undefinable thing.
RaveBooklist... [a] quietly funny, deeply interiorized debut novel ... Dorothy...wonders plenty on the page, and remains in rich conversation with herself ... Readers will find this perceptive, cerebral, original, and easy to fall into.
Elizabeth Miki Brina
PositiveBooklistBrina’s uniquely structured memoir, which investigates her own past as the daughter of an Okinawan mother and a white American father, and the history of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa ... These episodes inform the rest of Brina’s forthright and tunneling inquiry into how she came to understand the many inherited layers of herself and her racial identity. Deeply human portraits of her parents emerge alongside her own candid snapshots: stories of both disappointments and unconfined, unconditional love. Artfully concerned with the DNA-altering effects of trauma and the almost unfathomable power of language, Brina’s work opens a window on a lifelong search for peace, and the life-giving work of listening.
Vanessa Springora, tr. Natasha Lehrer
PositiveBooklistSpringora’s lucid account is a commanding discussion of sexual abuse and victimization, and a powerful act of reclamation.
Ed. by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell
PositiveBooklistIntimate and wide ranging in every sense, the script-flipping, heart-skipping stories gathered here speak to and across one another, conveying truths of desire, experience, and selfhood as only literature can.
RaveBooklistLockwood’s narration of the woman’s thoughts propels this provocative, addictive, and unusual novel. The book’s first half is filled with her darkly irreverent, mordant musings on the portal and how it got to this, a screen-addled situation that sounds much like our own ... With unfettered, imagistic language, Lockwood conjures both a digital life that’s easily fallen into, and the sorts of love and grief that can make it all fall away.
MixedBooklistIf the book, like Larson’s journey through Takako’s story, occasionally diverges or becomes difficult to follow, and offers few concrete answers, it seems that that is part of the point.
RaveBooklistAs in her terrific first novel, The Pisces (2018), spell-caster Broder guides readers through this seriously tender tale of transformation with seamless humor and staggering smarts: it contains multitudes. An empathic, enrapturing, unputdownable novel of faith, sex, love, and nurture.
RaveBooklist... riveting and searching ... artful ... evocative ... With both harrowing episodes and moments of beauty to linger in, Geller’s finely crafted work of extraordinary strength and survival spans worlds, encompassing life and after-life.
RaveBooklistGracefully encompassing pain and power and so much in between, Laymon’s artfully piercing essays share truth without limit, and could not feel more timely.
PositiveBooklistThis second novel from Glass, a writer and nurse, explores trauma as poetically, inventively, and incisively as her debut, Peacj ... Glass’ image-laden, stream-of-consciousness writing style makes for arresting moments ... Across her emotionally tender, titled chapters, Glass grants readers access to the many-dimensional Laura, so strong but struggling to care for herself as unreservedly as she cares for others.
RaveBooklistYanow’s autofiction story captures a distinctly realistic, relatably self-conscious moment in her protagonist’s coming-of-age. Sophie’s calls to her mom from her spartan Paris bedroom, of which we only hear Sophie’s side, are particularly genius. Yanow’s crisp and unshaded black-and-white drawings contain a great depth of field, perfect for showing Sophie against richly architectural, often-enveloping European backdrops ... A clever, endearing tale of the thrill of falling in with someone new, and the relief of returning to oneself.
PositiveBooklistDivided into five parts, the novel bridges time and action in the space between phrases, Crossan’s poetic style lending itself to a certain spareness as well as a twist on the tale of a midlife love affair. While Connor’s family situation is known from the beginning, Ana’s is revealed more slowly, as are the fits and starts of their years-long romance. Further suspense is added by Ana’s willful edging into Rebecca’s life, and the circumstances of Connor’s death, which aren’t fully known until the book’s ending. Supporting characters like Rebecca and those closest to Ana enrich the story.
Steve Martin and Harry Bliss
PositiveBooklistBliss’ versatility as an illustrator is showcased, too, making it clearer still that this duo was destined.
RaveBooklist...informed by intensive, ardent research and reverence for his home city; consider this book a train ticket to a past time and place. In addition to boldly voiced characters and dramatic suspense, in this century-ago tale of labor rights and wealth inequality readers will find plenty of modern relevance.
PositiveBooklistIllustrated in Brosh’s wobbly, bright, extra-simplified digital drawings, these stories define the book’s significant emotional core and lend perspective to the lighter and varied fare that surrounds them ... Brosh alternates sorrow with levity—funny childhood stories, more animal tales, and general musings on life and its lack of meaning or fairness—with grace that feels true to life.
RaveBooklistThis is a love story, writ large, that sings in small moments ... Forced apart, and deeper into the families they’d all but separated from, or maybe never knew to begin with, they grow in wholly unanticipated ways. As in his short story collection, Lot (2019), Washington writes about race, class, family, love, and the idea of home with evocative nuance and phenomenal dialogue.
PositiveBooklist... complex ... The pleasure here is in getting lost in the details as Clegg leads readers through a narrative maze. Characters’ connections—and separations—morph as the story proceeds, shifting among their various perspectives. Even at their least certain, their lives seemingly happening to them all at once, Clegg’s characters are fully themselves in every moment.
PositiveBooklistThroughout his first memoir, chef, restaurateur, and Ugly Delicious host Chang never loses sight of the \'monumental weirdness\' of writing a book about himself. While he discusses his upbringing in a Korean American family with poignance, particularly his relationship with his father, this is primarily a book about Chang’s career and mental health, and how the two are intertwined ... Chang is just as open about professional missteps as successes, lauding his talented team while never sparing himself criticism. He also applies brave transparency to the realities of coping with his bipolar disorder, and battling suicidal thoughts. Culinary-minded readers will find much instruction here as well as the intimate self-portrait of a chef who works hard not to be at the top of his game, but instead always growing.
RaveBooklistIn this richly interiorized novel, following Nunez’s National Book Award–winning The Friend (2018), most dialogue is volleyed without quotes, putting readers themselves in continuous conversation with the narrator ... With both compassion and joy, Nunez contemplates how we survive life’s certain suffering, and don’t, with words and one another.
Jonas Hassen Khemiri, trans by Alice Menzies
PositiveBooklistStrung together, engrossing, minute-by-minute passages become layered, and character arcs grows steeper by degrees ... Depicting his characters’ perceptions of one another, and themselves, Khemiri points to universal truths: in this and any family, roles change over time, and, with any luck, so do the people in them.
PositiveBooklistWith his fly-on-the-wall reporting style, life happens and the boys emerge fully themselves: driven, funny, sweet, wise, terrified, excited. A uniquely illuminating window onto the lives of young people in the midst of a hugely consequential year.
PositiveBooklistIn this lifelike, charming, and witty portrayal of mostly-well-mannered marriage doldrums, LeFavour lets Alice and Peter unleash their inner storms onto the page long before they act on them. Their paramours become ciphers for all they think they’ve lost in one another, and the opposition between their respective sciences—and themselves—turns out to be a mirror.
RaveBooklistFans of Ferrante’s first two Neopolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend (2012) and The Story of a New Name (2013), will especially revel in Giovanna’s confessional, perceptive, gut-wrenching, and often funny narration of what she calls her \'arduous approach to the adult world\'.
Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
PositiveBooklist...frank and vulnerable ... This is an instructive, humbling, and reassuring guidebook to Big Friendship in all its hard work and outsize glory; through both tears and laughter, readers will see themselves in it, and be glad.
RaveBooklistThe author is a heck of a writer; readers will rejoice when she sees she’s not so different from her dear creation after all. A surprising, joyful story of social media at its best.
PositiveBooklistAcknowledging that a storyteller’s choices in themselves tell a story, [Crawford] gives a studied, vulnerable, and maddening account of her near-undoing and the school’s absolute obstruction of the truth. She melds her personae as a teenage girl, a survivor, and a skilled narrator, relating what she understood as she understood it, while also revealing her story’s upsetting course. Crawford’s meditation on the effects of silence, shame, and belief, and the antidotes she had to invent for herself, will add to evolving discussions of sexual assault and power.
PositiveBooklistSo suffused with Adjmi’s skill for drama and spectacular vocabulary is this gimlet-eyed personal history of making and being made by art, it is emotionally vast and utterly triumphant.
RaveBooklistLeilani’s radiant debut belongs to its brilliant, fully formed narrator. Old soul Edie has an otherworldly way of seeing the world and reflecting it back to readers, peppering experiences of past and current despair with acceptance and humor but never sacrificing depth, of which her story has miles. A must for seekers of strongly narrated, original fiction.
RaveBooklist... powerful ... An editor for This American Life, Burton has been an avid reader, writer, and journal-keeper since childhood, the effects of which are felt throughout her stirringly crafted book. Just as she, suffering intensely and alone, pored over the few eating-disorder memoirs available in her college library, readers who see themselves in these pages will find invaluable identification and even comfort. It’s also a breathtakingly related depiction of growing up and the intimacies of family, friendship, and romantic love. All memoir-lovers will be taken by Burton’s elegant prose, rare self-insight, and layered, superconfessional storytelling.
André Leon Talley
PositiveBooklist... unguarded style ... Shying from neither painful complications nor boundless praise, in turn, Talley opens up about his significant relationships with these mentors and friends and others, including Karl Lagerfeld and Lee Radziwell, to whom the book is dedicated. With great vulnerability, he also shares his longtime battle with weight, experiences of racism, and childhood trauma that led to struggles with romance. Draping difficulty in the title’s chiffon, Talley describes splendid fashions (including his own trademark caftans) with vibrant specificity, and often relates being positively starstruck by the work and worlds he moves in, like the time he escorted Beyoncé into the Met Gala. Black-and-white photos dot the text, and finished books will include a glossy photo insert.
Jean Kyoung Frazier
PositiveBooklist... quirky and emotionally resonant ... With the loving, fully dimensional characters Frazier props up around her, Pizza Girl is bottled up and confused, her erratic behavior becoming cruel and worse. With readers, though, she’s her full-hearted, idiosyncratic self. She fears she’s too much like her late, alcoholic dad and wonders if her mom felt a similar ambivalence surrounding her own birth. Fans of Miranda July, Patty Yumi Cottrell, and Jen Beagin will find a kindred heroine in Frazier’s Pizza Girl.
PositiveBooklistReflecting and refracting her story via the four related women—sisters, cousins, mothers, daughters—at its heart, and with an irresistible narrative voice, Bennett...writes an intergenerational epic of race and reinvention, love and inheritance, divisions made and crossed, binding trauma, and the ever-present pas.
PositiveBooklistFrom discussions of the oppressive myths and painful contradictions surrounding female virginity to the general societal acceptance that anything is permitted, if in secrecy, echoes abound among the testimonials. Slimani connects her subjects’ words with her own deep understanding of Moroccan politics, inequalities, and penal codes, while sharing her strong belief that change will only come from allowing individuals a greater freedom to think and speak for themselves.
RaveBooklistBrilliant, chaotic, and fantastically untethered from humdrum reality, Bertino’s second novel...playfully, precisely builds a big world in these pages, somehow making the case that there’s too much love, pain, and magic to ever fit in one story, and fitting it in all the same.
PositiveBooklist... an exhilarating readability and sense of plot ... Acknowledging both the tribute of memory and the mercy of forgetting with one distinctive voice, this is a rare and skillfully structured view of an artist’s love, grief, and growth.
PositiveBooklistOccasional chapters from Iris’ perspective fill in the story ... A sort of mother-daughter road-trip novel, this explores the idea that we’re all incomplete and forever subject to change, especially to those we love.
RaveBooklistSandler is frank from the start that it became difficult to maintain journalistic distance from a woman who became her friend. But even with this tangle, their collaboration leads to a rich, sociologically valuable work that’s more gripping, and more devastating, than fiction. Readers will be struck by both the sheer impossibility of what Camila faces while navigating inadequate social services—hairpin switchbacks of requirements, paperwork, and appointments that would send most people careening into an abyss—and her ability to maintain hope as she does so. Sandler frequently juxtaposes Camila’s struggles with tableaux of New York’s encroaching wealth, with stunning statistics, giving readers an unusually personal view of an inarguably failing system.
PositiveBooklistRelating the adrenaline-surging hustle in restaurant kitchens, including nauseating moments of sexual harassment, Grant writes with bursting energy ... Grant captures life with her husband and growing babies in similarly spare and gripping images, to enjoyably entrancing effect. The book ends with recipes referenced in her essays, and more: tarte tatin, lamb popsicles, avocado bowls, a fridge- and pantry-flexible \'California pesto.\' Narrative instructions match the rest of the book’s feel for finding a solid base and then following one’s intuition.
Emma Jane Unsworth
PositiveBooklistUnsworth (Animals, 2015) deftly bounces readers through Jenny’s story, which unfolds in snappily titled chapters that often contain emails, texts, and tweets. This fun, chatty packaging adds to what is ultimately a journey of serious transformation and redemption ... Unsworth’s wise and invigorating novel captures something essential in the ways Jenny rules, and is ruled by, her digital self; readers will be hooked.
PositiveBooklistWritten in the aftermath of quitting the drug, which she begin taking in college, this book expands on Schwartz’s New York Times Magazine article \'Generation Adderall\' to examine attention as both a concept and an action, especially in our smartphone-obsessed era ... With fascinating research and illuminating interviews, this is ruminative, provocative, and discussion-worthy.
PositiveBooklistTemple keeps readers on a string with murky suspense, foreshadowed danger, and a spine-tingling sense of seclusion. Readers will also appreciate themes of idolatry, Buddhist spirituality, and teenage girlhood in this stylish debut.
PositiveBooklistOne essay is a 1990s mixtape, complete with track listings and their explanations. \'Lesbian Bed Death\' is a series of statements that begin with \'Sure, sex is fun,\' and end with things like \'but have you ever watched PBS?\' ... And despite Irby’s claim that \'It is not that helpful!\', the collection-closing story of getting her first book published will especially speak to budding writers. Irby has an uncanny ability to punctuate all the funny stuff with well-placed moments of true tenderness, making this exactly what her longtime and new readers will love and LOL over.
PositiveBooklistSligar handles her intricately structured story’s threads with delicacy in this impressive, suspenseful debut.
PositiveBooklistWhile characters’ actions, words, and, sometimes, their thoughts (especially Marguerite’s), are strikingly clear, Kemp leaves the novel’s background elements in a softer focus. But like the cicadas buzzing as spring turns to summer, there are big, loud stories hiding behind Marguerite and Jerome’s day-to-day ... With its French provincial setting, and an unexpected romance hastening its second half, this is a moody, suspenseful, and altogether absorbing debut.
Rebecca Dinerstein Knight
PositiveBooklistPoking at the membranes between poisons and their antidotes, monuments and their ruins, and life and death, Nell’s confessional word-tumbles are this book’s most special feature. Knight writes in a distinctive, addictive, and poetic style in which every sentence provokes and nothing is predictable.
RaveBooklist... Bobby is the charming, hilarious, and ever-quotable star of her own one-woman show ... Mixing in day-to-day practicalities, crystalline deliveries of amazing family tales, and oft-repeated lines, Kalb-as-Bobby crafts an uncanny rendering of two whole, wholly connected women and their unshakable bond. This is a monumental act of attention, love, and memory, and readers will almost certainly be affected by it.
RaveBooklistThe sudden death of a frenemy, hit by a school bus, knocks widowed Strick family matriarch Astrid’s own life slightly off course ... the joy is in the setup ... Straub etches in the comforting, often funny truths readers love her for ... An all-out celebration of the life force in ourselves and in our families ... Straub’s novels are dearly beloved, and this might be her best yet.
PositiveBooklistA fractured, startlingly human narrator in Moshfegh’s...inimitable style, Vesta quickly reveals a relentless imagination matched only by her desire to uncover the truth ... Cleverly unraveling, linguistically brilliant, and limning the limits of reality, this will speak to fans of literary psychological suspense.
PositiveBooklistHarried, loving scenes of Laura and Marie in their cloistered little world are some of the book’s most alive and memorable ... Pair this with Chelsey Johnson’s charming mother-daughter-music novel Stray City (2018).
PositiveBooklistAnthony keeps her complex plot moving swiftly with constant jumps between the two story lines, which begin to flop wildly over one another, and twists (Eyeball transplants! Hauntings! Backstabbing!) aplenty. A wholly original, entertaining, history-infused, and politically engaged novel of the deeds and misdeeds of lonely, repressed men.
PositiveBooklist\"She discovers a woman who deeply loved other women while lacking the terms and perhaps the space to define her queer desire. Celebrating McCullers, love, and the idea that every story told includes something of its teller, Shapland writes an involving literary journey of the self.\
PositiveBooklistMcBride writes with soul-stirringly inventive language and an immediate, stream-of-consciousness style that’s all her own. While in some ways more straightforward than her previous books, this slim novel casts a distinctive literary spell ... McBride interrupts the narrative with subject and tense changes that keep us, thrillingly, on our toes. This begs to be savored, and reread.
PositiveBooklistCapturing an intricate portrait of Stateway Gardens (a real place that was razed in 2007), Drain mines the idea that life in the projects could be both a thing to escape and something to nurture, a matter made more critical by the ticking clock of gentrification. A deep, vibrant collection.
RaveBooklistThe romance will draw readers in, but Casey’s journey as a writer, alone, is the book’s strongest magnet ... With deep and sensationally wrought feeling, King leaves no barrier between readers and smart, genuine, cynical, and funny Casey. A closely observed tale of finding oneself, and one’s voice, while working through grief.
RaveBooklistSearching her past for the acceptance-seeking memories of her childhood and young adulthood, Tallent fashions a tender shadow of the often-terrified person she was then ... Tallent’s personal literary endeavor contains many wildly evocative passages and breathtaking sentences, making it a must-read for lovers of writers’ memoirs.
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
RaveBooklistMoving from the micro to the macro, [the authors] tell the stories of their Yamhill friends and others they’ve met across the country, sharing their photos as well as studies and figures that deepen readers’ understanding. While they cover policy failures of the last half-century, they also affirm that we’re no longer dealing in Republican or Democratic issues, but issues of Americans’ very survival. Highlighting successful small-scale programs like Tulsa’s rehabilitative Women in Recovery program, they emphasize that there are potentially nationwide solutions. Both researched and personal, this will be hard for readers to stop thinking about.
RaveBooklistTaylor translates Wallace’s thoughts and conversations with a rare fluidity and writes breathlessly physical scenes, all of which adds to the charged experience of reading his steadily exciting and affecting debut; it’s an experience in itself. He works a needle through Wallace’s knots of race, class, and love, stopping after loosening their loops and making hidden intricacies visible, but before neatly untying them.
PositiveBooklist... deep and surprising ... Cloris’ survival narration is exciting, with devastating vistas and a mysterious savior in the form of a possible fugitive, but her musings on her past life and life in general are some of the book’s very best moments ... like its subject, Lewis’ story is, well, rangier, and a worthy foil ... Gloriously unexpected.
PositiveBooklistAn assured, affable guide, Calhoun balances bleakness with humor and the hope inherent in sharing stories that will make other women feel less alone. She also gives good advice for finding support through midlife hardship. This is a conversation starter (as well as a no-brainer for book groups that count Gen X women among their members) that might get Boomer and Millennial readers curious, too.
E. J. Koh
PositiveBooklistKoh captures their pasts, and her own, with the lack of straightforwardness memory evinces as sentiments echo across generations: daughters will someday have daughters just like themselves; one day, a daughter will be her mother’s mother. Both creative tribute and personal reckoning, this is a finely wrought, linguistically rich, provocative memoir.
PositiveBooklist... combines far-reaching analyses of the predicaments we’re in now, from sociopolitical and philosophical angles, with relatable, often funny, and ultimately hopeful personal moments (including affecting passages on raising young children). A more-than-companionable guide, O’Connell sets out to understand how we live under constant threat of climate change and political terror, and finds that the answer is, more or less, we do.
Crissy Van Meter
PositiveBooklistThis is a moving, graceful novel of how people change and are changed by natures within and without.
PositiveBooklistPopkey is up to the task of her interesting approach, seamlessly weaving dialogue into actions and backstories (sometimes without quotes) and letting it drive the story. As her narrator notes: \'There is, below the surface of every conversation in which intimacies are shared, an erotic current.\' Popkey captures this idea over and over again in her talking book of a woman’s maturation and evolving desire.
RaveBooklistGreenwell’s writing on language, desire, and sex in all their complex choreography vibrates with intensity, reading like brainwaves and heartbeats as much as words. Concerned with intimacy, its performance, and the inevitability of becoming and being oneself, this is in every way an enriching, deepening follow-up.
PositiveBooklistPerfect for getting lost in, Stuart’s richly wrought coming-of-age saga is a trenchant portrayal of poverty and addiction, true to life and steeped in its era, setting, and dialect.
PositiveBooklistFrance shares style tips and behind-the-scenes stories in his recognizable-on-the-page voice with lots of humor and well-formed opinions. He also writes movingly of \'little Tan\', the strong-willed youngest child in his Pakistani-English Muslim family, the racism he experienced, and the othering he felt knowing that he was gay. Musing relatably on the wildness of newfound celebrity, he also reveals how proud he feels to have won fans and accolades for being fully himself.
PositiveBooklistAs in her stylish debut, Catalina (2017), Jacobs sets her narrator on a dark psychological journey in sweltering, sun-bleached locales ... Cilla behaves in the reckless way of the truly addicted. The below-the-surface story here is of Cilla’s losses: her father, her sister, and a never-realized marriage to her much-older longtime lover, Guy ... Darkly compelling and even better than Catalina.
Kate Elizabeth Russell
PositiveBooklistNarrating in present tense, Vanessa is easy to sympathize with, and her story is hard to stop reading. On another level, Russell realistically portrays how this sort of thing could happen ... Empathetic, incendiary, and discussable.
RaveBooklistDavis is a master of her etched-looking, black-and-white style, slowing the pace and adding gravity to frames by dialing up her use of black, shadows, and contrast, as in a two-page spread that shows a protest from above: an energized mass of people speaking in one voice. Davis also manipulates pace through frames’ detail or lack of it, especially in characters’ faces. A beautiful, character-driven, novel-like story of how people move on and even find beauty when it seems impossible to do either.
PositiveBooklistIn addition to his creative, thoughtful, and bold writing on race and culture, Perry shares love stories and music stories ... Especially because of the evocative way Perry writes about his past in charged scenes that often buzz with music, fans of Hanif Abdurraqib’s and Jessica Hopper’s recent books will want to take note.
PositiveBooklistDenfeld’s career as a public defense investigator clearly informs her insight into Naomi’s hunger for the truth and elucidates Celia’s past and life on the streets. Her depictions of women and girls surviving horrific conditions through the power of their own imaginations will stay with readers.
PositiveBooklistIandoli synthesizes ample source material (including her own interviews) in an efficient and quippy style, writing with admiration foremost but not glossing over salient matters like beefs and diss tracks. Her narrative becomes more personal with the stories of artists she experienced as a fan in real time ... While Iandoli shows how some struggles have persisted through the decades, like the constant battle to not be objectified, her outlook is heaped with gratitude and upward-trending.
PositiveBooklist... the frame works well even for readers who don’t happen to be Wong’s daughters ... Readers can expect both genuine LOLs and some pretty intimate truths, like the miscarriage Wong experienced, the prenup agreement that made her determined to keep pursuing her dreams, and the question she wishes people would stop asking ... A touching afterword from Wong’s husband adds another dimension and shares honest advice for navigating life with a famous, funny mom.
RaveBooklistReaders expecting fluffy hilarity from actress and comedian Slate’s first solo-authored adult book should adjust their dials ... amidst the heartbreak, Slate leaves room for all sorts of lightness and laughter ... This unconventional collection gives true insight into Slate as both an artist and a person, and will more than reward curious readers.
RaveBooklist... courageous and intersectional ... Evaristo uses minimal punctuation and fluid paragraphs for a high-velocity style of exposition. And, oh, what is exposed. Hearing from mothers and their children, teachers and their students across generations, readers might expect that they’ll get to see just what these characters can’t know about one another, but they won’t imagine the dazzling specificities nor the unspooling dramas; they will be entertained, educated, and riveted.
PositiveBooklistWith loads of strangeness, humor, and really great lines, Flattery writes women’s uncanny and true lives.
PositiveBooklistIn Rowe’s first short-story collection, the Australian author’s talent for relating her very human characters’ rich interior lives is even more on display than in her impressive debut novel ... Often, Rowe pierces through threatening clouds with humor, especially in her genuine, clever dialogue. Taking place in Canada, Australia, and the U.S., these expansive tales are bound to grip, surprise, and enrapture short-story lovers.
PositiveBooklistFrank’s characters share the spotlight somewhat unsteadily, and their emotions sometimes feel just out of reach. Still, touching on heady topics with plot aplenty, this will easily appeal to readers who like to lose themselves in big, multivoiced dramas of love and family.
Linda Boström Knausgård, Trans. by Martin Aitken
PositiveBooklist...Knausgård’s second novel...gives voice to the uncontrollable, horrifying aspects of growing up. Ellen doesn’t quite understand why her life force might be so compromised, but she does find power, pride, and a kind of freedom in her silence. Readers familiar with Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical My Struggle series will recognize Linda Boström as its author’s ex-wife, adding further intrigue to this quietly bold tale of familial terror and love.
PositiveBooklistThe thing about eras is that, someday, they’re bygone, and Howard records this one with clarity and a kind of reverence. This is both funny and touching, and likely to reach readers in wholly unexpected ways.
PositiveBooklist[Doyle\'s] no less cutting and composed in her second book ... she exposes both the self-sustaining cycle in which women, limited by patriarchy, are also held responsible for the misdeeds of men, as well as the possibility of harnessing the fear of female power as power itself. Doyle sometimes tempers the heaviness with well-placed humor ... Her extensive, annotated source notes are a valuable resource for readers wanting to dive deeper into the powerfully monstrous, ever-female dark.
PositiveBooklistConsidering people, concepts, and art, Solnit’s engaging political discourse topples the systems and structures we take for granted and assures us that all progress stems from better knowing and working with one another.
Thomas Chatterton Williams
PositiveBooklist... almost the very definition of thought-provoking, asking readers to reconsider race from every angle ... Chatterton-Williams meets his every provocation with searching questions and reasoned thought. And he ends with hope.
RaveBooklistAttenberg’s seventh work of fiction is experienced mostly through Alex, Barbra, and Twyla, each one a terrifically nuanced character that’s nearly impenetrable to the others yet intoxicatingly available to readers. As the story unfolds largely over a single day, memories are purged and bombshells dropped, not to mention the ever-curious matter of the vexing central character rendered mute for the duration. Attenberg writes with a deeply human understanding of her characters, and the fact that, when it comes to family, things are rarely well enough to leave alone.
PositiveBooklist...emotionally rich ... Woodson channels deeply true-feeling characters, all of whom readers will empathize with in turn. In spare, lean prose, she reveals rich histories and moments in swirling eddies, while also leaving many fateful details for readers to divine.
PositiveBooklistPrice gets into the minds of characters, sometimes shifting quickly, to show how sexual violence burrows into whole webs of people. This smart, gripping novel paints an important topic in black-and-white.
RaveBooklistAs she did in her striking debut, Girlchild (2012), Hassman imaginatively parcels out her second novel in titled chapters ... Irreverent, wise, heartbreaking, and heart-mending, this is about nothing less than the everyday challenges of love, belief, and existence. In Hassman’s dazzlingly original style, sweet-sour, wicked-tender Helen’s entrancing narration casts a remarkable spell.
PositiveBooklistUnderlying the very readable, honestly human propulsion of her characters’ lives in their near-entirety, Wall does a tricky thing quite well, exploring the facts of faith and love at both their most exalting and most trying. This has broad appeal for book groups.
PositiveBooklistIn her finely related chronicle of experiencing this work first-hand, she incorporates histories of labor, scientific management, and trade deals, as well as the psychology of work and stress. Guendelsberger can go from light-hearted to dead-serious on a dime, writing with a conversational, contemporary, and heavily footnoted bent. (There are also extensive notes and further reading.) This clear inheritor to Barbara Ehrenreich’s seminal Nickel and Dimed (2001) is bound to open eyes and change minds.
RaveBooklistTalented debut novelist Macneal drops readers right into a Victorian London that’s home to stinking squalor and chaos, but also significant beauty and possibility. Midway through, readers won’t know if they’re holding a romance, tragedy, or murder mystery, but won’t pause long enough to wonder about it ... This terrifically exciting, chiaroscuro novel became an instant bestseller in England, with TV rights already sold, and will jolt, thrill, and bewitch U.S. readers, too.
Sarah Elaine Smith
PositiveBooklist... a mysterious and strangely exciting debut. Smith is a poet, and writes in sensory-driven, soul-tapping prose ... Despite her isolation, professed ignorance, and desire to self-annihilate, bright and brave narrator Cindy understands much of the world, its hardships and moral quandaries, and the startling lack of guarantees that come with being born.
MixedBooklistSavage’s debut unfolds in dense, descriptive paragraphs that are mostly transcriptions of first-person narrator Ella’s thoughts. This level of intimacy can get bogged-down in the details; action and conversation occur largely off-page, and tensions are as much obscured as revealed. Still, Savage explores interesting territory, in particular, commitment, aging and caretaking, and gender’s influence on all of it.
PositiveBooklistWilliams’ U.S. debut story collection, A Selfie as Big as the Ritz (2017), introduced a keen chronicler of contemporary women’s lives; her sly, perceptive first novel does it one better, and offers food for thought on the sorts of love (and sorts of women) that society doesn’t accommodate.
RaveBooklistBourland has an uncanny knack for spatial description and relates artwork and every last thing in Pine City with pristinely observed color and feeling. She also nails the creep factor, and her narrator’s high tolerance for it, with foreboding signs that the no-name painter isn’t totally welcome there, and that there’s more to Carey’s story. The deck stacked against her, the narrator tells the glitteringly compelling tale of her fevered summer and wisely reveals meaningful intersections of class, gender, and making art.
RaveBooklistTaddeo braids together the women’s narratives, which adds both suspense and heft as their desire-biographies echo and diverge. Her distinct proximity to her subjects shows in the intimate fantasies, scorching encounters, and profound pains they relate through her, but the power resting fully with them, this never becomes voyeuristic. Instead, she allows them to be defined not by their jobs, kids, or, significantly, the men in their lives, but by a deep and essential part of themselves. Readers will almost certainly fly through this and want to talk about it.
PositiveBooklistPine’s collection of six essays is a writer’s personal reckoning with the unsayable. Present-tense narration brings readers intimately close to past events ... Addressing periods, body hair, and menopause, \'Notes on Bleeding and Other Crimes\' would make good required reading for everyone ... Resolutely confirming the still-radical notion that women’s thoughts, memories, and bodies contain stories untold, this is a formidable read-alike for essay-memoirs like Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply (2017) and Laura June’s Now My Heart Is Full (2018).
PositiveBooklistArnade offers no tidy conclusions, and his work is bound to provoke reaction, discussion, and perhaps controversy. Inarguably, his \'attempt to listen and look with humility\' is a portrait of what it’s like to feel disfavored by the institutions and values of a \'front row\' society that purports to be a meritocracy, with education serving as its all-access pass.
PositiveBooklistLight on plot propulsion and heavy on dream-retelling, Acampora’s first novel following the acclaimed story collection, The Wonder Garden (2015), will appeal to fans of character-driven psychodramas.
RaveBooklistLatina and Indigenous American women who long to be seen—and see themselves—are the beating heart of the stories in Fajardo-Anstine’s rich and radiant debut ... Sharing her characters’ southern Colorado homelands, Fajardo-Anstine imbues her stories with a strong sense of place and the infinite unseen generations that coexist in even single moments.
John Von Sothen
PositiveBooklistVon Sothen is both laugh-out-loud funny and tender, the latter especially in poignant essays about his parents, an artist and a newsman, who had him late in life. The problem, if it can be called one, is that even without fantasy, von Sothen’s Paris comes across as pretty fantastic, a vibrant, genuine place he clearly feels lucky to call home.
RaveBooklistAs disagreeable and contrary as they come, Louis is a narrator readers will want to hug and throttle with equal urgency, sometimes simultaneously. Delightful at sentence-level, this is foremost the story of his sluggish-but-sure metamorphosis. Even Layla gets a second act readers won’t see coming. Miller, an absolute master of minutiae, relates Louis’ innermost self with poignancy and humor that never sacrifice an ounce of realism.
RaveBooklist\" Brodesser-Akner proves herself also a master of startlingly true invention in her enthralling, affirming debut of midlife, marital, and existential despair. It asks and answers if there’s such a thing as fairness, in marriage or in life, and if the story of a marriage can ever be told from all sides—or the outside. Shrewd and delectable, this would be a novel to savor, if it were possible to put down.\
PositiveBooklistGlynn, an editor at HarperCollins, writes the Montauk scene with brisk, detached tenderness, but it’s at its most personal that his memoir shines brightest, grasping at the many ways there are to love and be and ultimately revelling in them.
RaveBooklist\"Dennis-Benn builds big worlds inside and outside of her touchable characters, writing through their knotty love in all its failures and mercies in this empathic intergenerational epic of womanhood and inheritance.\
RaveBooklist\"In Vuong’s acrobatic storytelling, Lan’s traumatic wartime tale unspools in a spiraling dive, and a portrait of Trevor emerges in the snapshots of a 10-page prose poem. Casting a truly literary spell, Vuong’s tale of language and origin, beauty and the power of story, is an enrapturing first novel.\
Philippe Besson, trans. by Molly Ringwald
PositiveBooklistThere’s much book-to-film-star appeal in this moving, well-plotted tale: Elle dubbed it \'the French Brokeback Mountain\'; there’s something of Call Me by Your Name’s Elio in Philippe, who lives in the books he reads and writes; and actress and writer Ringwald ably translates.
PositiveBooklistFun facts and food for thought are in no short supply here, and some truly entertaining truths emerge in Raftery’s extensive research (which includes 100-plus new interviews with directors, writers, and actors). Movie and pop-culture nerds will relish this fizzy, nostalgic trip.
RaveBooklist... excellently paced ... presents hope in the form of a new way forward, offering insights into reform-minded campaigns from a new generation of lawyers and scholars who prize transparency and fairness in sentencing. Though her evidence is grounded in research and case law, Bazelon’s prose is refreshing, accessible, and bold. Fans of Bryan Stevenson and Matthew Desmond will be rapt with attention and cheering on efforts to rebuild public trust with a prosecution system that aims \'to offer mercy in equal measure to justice.\'
PositiveBooklistVladimir is in prison for the murders of three women. Ilya doesn’t believe Vladimir’s confession, though, and his time in the U.S. is quickly overtaken by...his private search to uncover the true killer. This mystery drives the novel, as Fitzpatrick reconstructs Ilya’s life in dramatically inhospitable Berlozhniki ... Beyond the brothers’ crystalline characterizations, Fitzpatrick gifts her intriguing debut with elegant prose, affecting images, and rich settings.
RaveBooklistCarty-Williams creates an utterly knowable character in Queenie, who’s as dimensional and relatable as they come ... Fast moving and with a strong sense of Queenie’s London, this entertains while tackling topics like mental health and stigma, racism and tokenism, gentrification, and the isolation of social-media and dating-app culture. This smart, funny, and tender debut embraces a modern woman’s messiness.
PositiveBooklistWells’ depiction of young Jules’ grief and the magical thinking that comes with it will undoubtedly affect readers ... A love story and a life story, this rich and well-translated domestic drama acknowledges that some bonds are truly immutable in the face of, or perhaps because of, tragedy and that our memories and the stories we make of them, though they may change, are as real as anything.
RaveBooklistKnisley once again writes and illustrates her life with an introspective transparency that, even for a topic as not-new as having a baby, feels totally novel ... Even in her signature neat and bright cartooning style, Knisley relays the despair of miscarriage in dark squiggles and visual metaphors ... n sharing her journey’s bumps and switchbacks, Knisley assures that there’s no perfect pregnancy story and that even a lot of strife won’t dim the joy of a child’s ecstatic arrival.
RaveBooklistStriking ... Readers peer through chain-link fences and discretely pulled curtains along with Leung’s vivid, quotable characters—and are reminded that life doesn’t happen between soap-opera episodes, cigarettes smoked at the kitchen sink, and trips to the mall, but during them.
PositiveBooklist\"... the narrator of James’ debut guides readers through this mordant comedy of manners ... James is a fine writer, and his narrator maintains a consistent, ironically self-serious tone, skewering contemporary mindfulness culture and the pursuits of those with time, money, or both to burn.\
PositiveBooklist\"Washington writes scenes to live in and dialogue that’s practically audible on the page, giving his standout first book a novelistic arc and a defiantly satisfying ending.\
T. Kira Madden
RaveBooklistMadden seems to fold and unfold the maps of her life thus far, bending time to pin points together in wise and unexpected ways ... exquisitely told ... A tale of an artist’s journey that showcases the coexistence of familial love and complication with such shattering grace, understatement, and openness, Madden’s wholly original first book joins unforgettable memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Melissa Febos’ Abandon Me, and Kiese Laymon’s Heavy.
RaveBooklist...written in fluid, unconfined prose that calls to mind the work of Eimear McBride ... Glass, a practicing nurse in her native England, aptly portrays Peach’s real and mythical struggles between emotion and reason, power and trauma in this darkly arresting debut.
Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
PositiveBooklistHindman, who now teaches writing, plants her addictive, confessional, and often-funny memoir in a fertile discussion of authenticity and Americanness in the aftermath of 9/11. The performances ultimately took a serious toll, but readers will note Hindman’s refusal to cast anyone as plain monster or hapless victim, and be struck by her grasp of the many ironies of her situation—chiefly, that it was easier to find work as a fake musician than as a real war reporter, which is what she most wanted to be after graduating from Columbia. Far-reaching, insightful, and unputdownable.
RaveBooklistThe longhand in which Gay first wrote these (one of the project’s rules) seems to uncurl on the typed page, in winding meanders and meaningful digressions that share a life-spanning spectrum of emotions and experiences ... While Gay’s delights embrace the darkness of racism and death, en masse they share a profound capacity for joy and belief in humankind. This stunning self-portrait of a gardener, a teacher, and a keen observer of life is sure to inspire.
PositiveBooklistOn this hot-button and emotional issue, Tomlinson asserts that he’s speaking for himself, but readers are likely to identify with at least some of what he says about addiction and holding himself back from life; trying to mute his inner radio station, \'USUCK-FM\'; conflating food with love and connection; resisting, even at 50 years old, becoming an adult; and not wanting to miss a minute with the wife, family, and friends he loves so much.
PositiveBooklistHeller (Celine, 2017) once again chronicles life-or-death adventure with empathy for the natural world and the characters who people it. He writes most mightily of the boys’ friendship and their beloved, uncompromising wilderness, depicting those layers of life that lie far beyond what is more commonly seen: the fire’s unapologetic threats, the wisdom of the birds and animals seeking their own safety, and the language of the river itself.
RaveBooklistInventing situations and conversations that are off-the-charts in both weirdness and relatability, Beagin fashions an enchantingly intriguing main character in unfiltered, warmhearted Mona. This story of a woman embracing life’s what-ifs and her own darkness is a great read-alike for Melissa Broder’s The Pisces (2018).
RaveBooklistWilkinson works within the true history of Burkina Faso, blending high-stakes political drama and Marie’s contemplation of the sister she lost and what her own choices will mean for her sons. Appealing in its insightful characterizations, well-plotted action, and rich settings, this should find a large audience.
RaveBooklistWritten with enough beauty to stop clocks ticking and hearts beating ... McColl’s resonant first book is resplendent with love, and the hope she finds in discovering that her unfathomable grief also carved a space for more profound joy.
RaveBooklistVijay intertwines her story’s threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin—or put—down, her first novel is an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut.
PositiveBooklistCharacterizations and mood drive this novel. While historical details about Tenn[essee Williams], his work, and his world bolster the story, it primarily belongs to Frank ... With imagination and feeling, Castellani reconjures history to reveal the intricate dynamics—loving and passionate, selfless and devastating—among artists and those who nurture them.
PositiveBooklistHeartfelt ... Though Iris’ death is the heart of her debut, Adkins keeps an overall lighthearted tone; hilariously hair-pulling emails from Carl and comments on Iris’ blog provide frequent comic relief. A natural read-alike for Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2012) and Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments (2011).
PositiveBooklistDread and a lush natural world infuse Maren’s noir-tinged debut as she carefully relays soul-crushing realities and myths of poverty and privilege, luck and rehabilitation, and the human needs that can precede criminality through love-starved loner Jodi and her band of fellow hungry souls.
PositiveBooklist\"Readers fond of protagonists who profess to guzzling wine at nine a.m. will breeze right through this one’s bad decisions, moments of shocking clarity and cruelty, and—no spoilers!—total undoing. A dark and stylish drama featuring a self-aware yet unstable narrator.\
PositiveBooklistRoupenian has an ear for dialogue and a knack for satire, and she often tips her characters into dark fantasy worlds and even-stranger realities to get at their ultimate truths ... Curious readers will be rewarded.
RaveBooklistEnglish humorist, novelist, and author of the delightful epistolary memoir, Love, Nina, Stibbe has a few words for people who love and hate Christmas in this little collection ... Funny, smart, sweet, and tender, this is greater than a gift book and readable any time of year.
RaveBooklistLong-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, this superb book more than lives up to the high expectations set for it by Rooney’s lauded first novel, Conversations with Friends...Showcasing Rooney’s focus and ability in building character relationships that are as subtle and infinite as real-life ones, and her perceptive portrayal of class, Normal People gets at the hard work of becoming a person and the near impossibility of knowing if a first love is a true one.
Matias Faldbakken, trans. by Alice Menzies
RaveBooklistNorwegian author Faldbakken’s U.S. debut unfolds over five days inside The Hills, an Oslo establishment akin to (though decidedly not as grand as) the \'Grand European\' restaurants of yore: marble tables; uniformed staff; creased everything; snails on the menu ... Faldbakken, who’s also a visual artist, paints The Hills’ interiors, the waiter’s psyche, and diners’ interactions with a deep, often-funny theatricality. For those who love encapsulated novels with a touch of the absurd.
RaveBooklist\"Divided into three sections that correspond to the album’s songs, videos, and progression, the book seems to translate the visual and audio to another plane entirely, and will undoubtedly inspire much rewatching and relistening. Tinsley’s many lenses, both academic and personal, make for a rich and exciting study of the modern masterpiece she calls \'(arguably) the most widely distributed black feminist text of the current moment.\'\
PositiveBooklistShort but mighty ... Maintains a remarkable confluence of palpable mood, a capricious and shifting tone, and wise character studies ... An original and affecting tour of family, the calendar, and the days that bind us to both.
Annie Goetzinger, Trans. by Montana Kane
PositiveBooklistCarving a niche as the creator of gorgeously illustrated, well-documented historical tales focusing on women’s lives, French artist Goetzinger...gives voice to her muse here, incorporating Colette’s own words into the narration. Goetzinger’s fashion-illustration background again shines in precise, realistic, sensually drawn figures and a lush palette, fitting her Belle Epoque setting, while her page layout keeps all the pace and appeal of traditional comics-reading.
PositiveBooklistRobinson maintains a baseline of free-associating, footnoting, list-making hilarity which both disarms and readies readers for the tougher truths she tackles ... particularly poignant are her essays about money and feminism.
PositiveBooklist\"Photos, pressed flowers, personal letters, historical documents, and her own illustrations and comics make up Krug’s mixed-media illustration style, with which she conveys significant emotion. Backgrounds and text are occasionally both so light or dark that her words are practically illegible text is often broken by illustrations in the center of the page, adding to the essentially fragmented nature of her search. A deep and affecting mix of text and illustration.\
RaveBooklist\"...Laymon, now a university writing professor himself, recalls the traumas of his Mississippi youth. He captures his confusion at being molested by his babysitter and at witnessing older boys abuse a girl he liked; at having no food in the house despite his mother’s brilliance; at being beaten and loved ferociously, often at the same time. His hungry mind and body grow, until, like a flipping switch, at college he’s compelled to shrink himself with a punishing combination of diet and exercise. And that’s barely the start of his life story thus far, with remembered moments in book-lined rooms and smoky casinos, conversations that leap from the page, the digits on a scale, and scrolling sentences ... So artfully crafted, miraculously personal, and continuously disarming, this is, at its essence, powerful writing about the power of writing.
RaveBooklist OnlineGerald opens his memoir by describing himself at age 12, sitting in a church pew in great anticipation of the impending Rapture. When the clock turns and 1999 becomes 2000 and he and his fellow congregants remain, is he relieved, or disappointed? Gerald then looks back at the beginning, as he remembers it ... Gerald pulls no punches in telling his extraordinary story, which he relates with unsparing truth, no small amount of feeling, and a complete lack of sentimentality. Painful lessons dart in and pummel his unsuspecting self, and scenes of startling intensity are often pierced—and pieced back together—by light and humor. Also an accomplished public speaker, Gerald will hook readers with richly layered writing on poverty, progress, race, belief, and the actual American Dream.
RaveBooklist Online\"In the early aughts, Hopper was a twentysomething going to shows, DJing, and riding her bike in a Chicago that, in many ways, already no longer exists. This time capsule of a collection documents, in journal-like bits, all this in tandem with the growth of her career as a professional music critic ... Hopper is ever-quotable, gut-checkingly deep, and laugh-out-loud funny.
RaveBooklist\"For her imaginative coming-of-age memoir, graphic novelist and New Yorker cartoonist Finck has changed some names, including her own. Starting anew, with a brand-new title page several times throughout the book, \'Leola\' wonders what story to tell and how best to tell it. Early on, she introduces the concept of her shadow, a companion who guided her before disappearing when she was a preteen. Should she begin with her mother, who taught her daughter the benefits of shadow-companionship, or her father, who passed his unique weirdness directly on to her? ... A sure hit for readers of graphic memoirs, this explores feeling different while recognizing sameness in others and making art while embracing being a work-in-progress oneself.
PositiveBooklist\"If Frey can’t make readers forget his highly public literary lows, he proves he can dynamically reimagine his past into a page-turner, in his signature stream-of-consciousness style.\
PositiveBooklistMorgan...builds her discussion of Lauryn Hill’s seminal 1998 album...on a framework of conversations ... [that] encompasses a wide spectrum of opinions. ... The two-decade distance adds other dimensions, too, in considering how very young Hill was when she released her masterpiece (only 23), how meaningful her decision to become a mother at that stage of her life was, the unbelievable pressure placed on her, and how early fame affected all that followed for her. A shoo-in for lovers of music writing, who will appreciate DJ Beverly Bond’s included playlist of 40-plus tracks that wouldn’t exist without Hill’s influence.
PositiveBooklistLarison gifts Jess with a strong voice to narrate her own story ... Larison...writes the novel’s many action scenes with restraint, and adds considerations of race, class, and religion to Jess’ realizations about gender. Larison’s western epic has wide appeal and is already in development for film.
RaveBooklist OnlineAnderson’s conversational prose and spirited chapters, grouped into sections, are a good match for his information-packed style. In the section \'Color,\' for instance, his layer-cake approach stacks racial injustice and civil rights activism in OKC’s history; Thunder center Daniel Orton, a hometown player, recalling a racially charged moment in his high-school basketball career; and Wayne Coyne, eccentric front man for the Flaming Lips and legendary lifelong OKC resident, convincing Anderson to help him add a literal rainbow to the city’s streets overnight ... Reading Anderson’s time-traveling, civics-minded, and thoroughly person-focused story of OKC, one gets the feeling that his research didn’t uncover a single fact that he could keep to himself, and his enthusiasm for the city’s singularity—and the implications of it—is beyond infectious.
RaveBooklist...the pleasure for readers is in piecing together their echoing, diverging stories. On their own, Teo’s sharp characterizations and setting—so alive that the book seems to create its own, humid microclimate—would set this book apart. Add to that her imaginative plot, prose that turns from humor to devastation on a dime, and original storytelling, and Ponti is a beyond-promising debut.
RaveBooklist\"Virgil’s narration is a joy: he lost his adjectives in the crash, making for their gleeful insertion each time he remembers one. Enger populates down-on-its-luck Greenstone with true characters—charming Virgil, his love interest, friends, and not-quite-friends, and even some wily wildlife—and gives them diverting plotlines aplenty, but the focus of his bright and breathing third novel feels mostly like life itself, in all its smallness and bigness, and what it means to live a good one.\
RaveBooklist\"Locascio practically invents a new language, conjuring pure feelings and colors, for their sex, which casts a strong spell over Roxana until, almost as quickly, Søren closes himself to her. Simultaneously naive and aware, Roxana holds on until Søren’s darkness becomes impossible to ignore, and her curiosity about a Bosnian refugee whom Søren derides overtakes all else. This provocative, intimate, and metamorphosing character study vividly captures a young woman’s life-earned education.\
RaveBooklist\"Evans zooms out to build her characters’ culturally rich backstories as they struggle to recognize their older selves and the relationships that have aged along with them. A probing, entertaining, and self-affirming novel of men and women getting relatably lost in the crises and hauntings of early midlife.\
RaveBooklist Online...Many stories hold highly dimensioned characters and unforgettable moments in under a few pages ... Dismantling the glib misconceptions of her complex ancestral home, Gay cuts and thrills. Readers will find her powerful first book difficult to put down.
PositiveBooklistJune tackles both the instructive, such as making rules and routines for Zelda that free them both, and the revelatory, those thoughts of her mother and her mother’s illness that appeared in the new creative space that becoming Zelda’s mom opened for her and begged to be put, however painfully, on the page. Warm, wrenching, and full of light, June’s first book joins a spate of recent memoirs by new mothers that includes Meaghan O’Connell’s And Now We Have Everything and Jessica Friedman’s Things That Helped.
RaveBooklistAlthough the realities are devastating, the doctors, the bereaved, and the advocates Macy introduces do offer hope. Hers is a crucial and many-faceted look at a still-unfolding national crisis, making this a timely and necessary read.
MixedBooklist OnlinePittard’s fourth novel, imagines the lives of several Atlanta residents in the aftermath of a 1962 airplane crash, a true event in which 130 people, many of them among Atlanta’s wealthiest citizens, perished ... Readers follow several...characters, including the city’s mayor and his wife, each grieving the city’s incalculable loss differently ... Individual players can, at times, feel underdeveloped, and the story unfocused. Atlanta native Pittard fills the novel with historical details, local points of reference, and distinct examinations of race and class, though, making it an evocative and discussion-worthy choice for readers who appreciate vivid settings.
PositiveBooklist\"Readers might have trouble \'getting\' her, but there is one thing they’ll know that she doesn’t, given the time and place. Propulsive, both disturbing and funny, and smart as hell.\
Tara Isabella Burton
RaveBooklistThis fast-paced, stylish, dialogue- and character-driven debut from journalist and scholar Burton will definitively ensnare readers. Diabolically playing on what we think we know about others and what we reveal about ourselves in the social-media age, it will give readers the creeps, too.
RaveBooklistKate is by far the best part of a book that has loads of great parts. She’s brilliant, funny, and tender as she observes the new foreignness of her marriage, her teenage children, her workplace, and her own self ... Tackling sexism, growing older, and understanding one’s needs when catering to those of so many others, Pearson writes realism with all the fun of escapism.
RaveBooklist\"While anticipation of the powwow provides a baseline of suspense, the path Orange lights through these and his novel’s many other stories thrills on its own. Engrossing at its most granular, in characters’ thoughts and fleeting moments, There There introduces an exciting voice.\
RaveBooklistSedaris’ family and upbringing have long been mainstays in his work, but this collection encompasses perhaps his most tender writing on the subjects yet ... For readers concerned that Sedaris has become too reverent, there’s also an episode in which he seeks connection with a tortoise via hilariously head-scratching means. Readers may think they know what to expect from Sedaris; they’ll be both surprised and delighted.
PositiveBooklistStrong characters, settings, and ambiance mark Winman’s unique and uniquely affecting story of love’s varieties, phases, and ability to bend time.
RaveBooklistAs in his previous novels, most recently Insignificant Others (2010), McCauley delights with intimately, often hilariously observed characters and a winking wit that lets plenty of honest tenderness shine through. Readers will love spending time in these pages.
RaveBooklist\"In a banner year for woman-falls-for-sea-creature stories Lucy, a wry and lovable lost soul, tells a tale that’s all her own ... In her first novel, essayist, poet, and Twitter-star Broder wraps timeless questions of existence—those that gods and stars have been beseeched to answer for millennia—in the weirdest, sexiest, and most appealing of modern packaging. Brilliant and delightful.\
PositiveBooklist\"Award-winning Shriver’s enthusiastic audience will delight in her clever and literary analyses of the spaces we occupy, and how they’re all too often no broader than a knife’s edge.\
PositiveBooklistMost impressive are the ways Greathead restrainedly shows her characters stretching at the seams of their own by-now-inherited restraint, and she paints their immense privilege with knowing nuance. Greathead’s smart and original take on the mother-daughter novel impresses and charms.
RaveBooklistHeti’s (How Should a Person Be?, 2010) novel of a woman pondering what’s perhaps life’s most essential—and most endlessly debatable—decision is a provocative, creative, and triumphant work of philosophical feminist fiction ... As her character seeks and ultimately chooses, as she must, the aspects of life and art she’ll lay claim to, Heti writes with courage, curiosity, and uncommon truth: \'To go along with what nature demands and to resist it—both are really beautiful—impressive and difficult in their own ways.\'
RaveBooklistMasterfully plotted and often further gilded with mirthful twists, Sittenfeld’s short-form works (half of which are published here for the first time) are every bit as smart, sensitive, funny, and genuine as her phenomenally popular novels.
RaveBooklist\"Though Chee, who now teaches at Dartmouth, in a very welcome way makes students of readers, his audience is in no way limited to writers. His quotable, pristine essays consider Chee’s family’s struggles, his AIDS activism and related losses, his tarot obsession, the labor of writing, the legacies of trauma, and the essentiality of making and having art. Hand to readers searching for something to follow 2017’s incredible parade of writers’ memoirs.\
RaveBooklist Online\"Endlessly introspective, wide-ranging, and lucid, Pardlo’s fearless inventory stuns with beautifully written, fully saturated snapshots of rich and complicated familial love.\
Anthony Ray Hinton, co-written with Lara Love Hardin
RaveBooklistHis memoir, collaboratively written with Hardin, is a troubling, moving, and ultimately exalting journey through the decades Hinton lived under the threat of death while an unjust system that refused to acknowledge mistakes failed him repeatedly ... Even more powerful than the crushing terror of serving a death sentence while innocent are Hinton’s refusal to be diminished by it and his unwavering commitment to forgiveness. Lighting unfathomable places, Hinton’s gripping story asks readers to do the same.
PositiveBooklistAusten’s impressive study of Chicago’s 23-tower Cabrini-Green public housing project, razed but its legacy looming still, was conducted during years of reporting and interviewing ... Highlighting these many-faceted lives and the care Cabrini residents took to safeguard and improve their part of an ever-changing neighborhood, Austen examines the finger-pointing and buck-passing among power players that gravely impacted the most vulnerable occupants ... As the buildings’ demolition, completed in 2011, has left former residents in worse and more precarious situations, Austen’s fascinating narrative demands much consideration.
RaveBooklist\"Though Anna, who readers will empathize with and root for, drinks and behaves erratically, this is no new Girl novel. As for the massacre itself, focus stays on the victims, and violence occurs mainly off the page. Combining a deep character study, prescient satire, and an unfortunately all-too-timely evisceration of U.S. gun culture, McAllister’s well-voiced and remarkably observed page-turner is in almost all ways an anti-thriller—itself a comment on the current, terrifying mundanity of similar events.\
Domenico Starnone, Trans. by Jhumpa Lahiri
PositiveBooklist\"Lahiri, who also translated Starnone’s Ties (2016), once again treats English-language readers to the boldly entertaining work of the celebrated Italian novelist.\
RaveBooklist\"Laugh-out-loud funny seems too trite a phrase for a writer whose takes are so addictively original and unexpected, but it’s also true: dear readers, you will laugh. Whether 2 or 20 pages in length, Crosley’s essays are complete and stop-you-in-your-tracks clever.\
PositiveBooklistA little bit like The Big Chill, Kauffman’s quiet and deep second novel reconciles the responsibilities we carry and the secrets we keep with the outsize pleasure of being known and loved by a chosen family.
RaveBooklist OnlineTamirat’s razor-sharp prose fashions a magnificently dimensional and emotionally resonant narrator, herself a storyteller who frames her own tale with beguiling skill. This debut is remarkable in every way.
RaveBooklistSpanning several eras, up to Andy’s present day, this is a coming-out and coming-of-age story; a surprise-I’m-pregnant story; a will-they-or-won’t-they love story; and an ode to a time and place we think we’ve heard everything about—and it’s all utterly fresh. Portraying Portland and Andy’s chosen family with feeling and immense charm, Johnson paints Andy’s love—for her kid, her city, herself, and others—in all its thorny nuance and surprising glory. Recommend this to Jami Attenberg and Rainbow Rowell fans.
Krystal A Sital
RaveBooklistBoth expansive and distilled, it is also transporting in its depiction of Sital’s ancestral island home in its vibrancy, beauty, and blight ... Sital’s tribute is staggering. Most piercingly, she relays with a detachment that reads like love the ways these women were fiercely determined to escape the formidable hardships of their past, foremost for the sake of their children, yet were all but doomed to repeat them. Sital’s bracing, loving blend of memoir and family history is not to be missed.
RaveBooklistThrough Alice’s layered narration, which is memoiristic in its true-feeling fullness and analysis, readers catch glimpses of her mostly happy marriage and her nonetheless easier-than-expected demolition of it. But that’s only half of her moving and propulsive tale ... Perfect for fans of deep-dive character studies in strong, moody settings.
RaveBooklistIn his third book, Iweala...delivers with immediate poignancy Niru’s struggles between rejecting his parents’ constrictions and yearning for them; between embracing his sexuality and believing there’s a cure for it, and that it should be cured at all ... Portraying cross-generational and -cultural misunderstandings with anything but simplicity, Iweala tells an essential American story.
RaveBooklistRemaining as objective as he can, and without moralizing or sounding academic, Cantú offers explanations of the policies and realities that keep the border an intensely scrutinized topic of public discussion. The final—and possibly best—portion of the book finds Cantú, once again a civilian, becoming involved in the case of an undocumented Mexican immigrant. A heart-wrenching, discussion-provoking perspective on how a border, the separation of two countries, can tear apart families, lives, and a sense of justice.
Terese Marie Mailhot
PositiveBooklist\"Mailhot’s first book defies containment and categorization. In titled essays, it is a poetic memoir told in otherworldly sentences ... Not shy, nor raw, nor typical in any way, this is a powerfully crafted and vulnerable account of living and writing about it.\
Melissa del Bosque
RaveBooklistDel Bosque, a National Magazine Award–winning investigative reporter for the Texas Observer, chronicles the FBI’s discovery of a Mexican cartel’s elaborate scheme to launder money through the U.S. purchase and racing of quarter horses ... Del Bosque breaks up the complex tale into brief, fluidly narrated, suspenseful chapters. Fully portraying the many key players and following the intricacies of the Treviños’ sophisticated plan, the FBI’s race against other federal agencies and the press to crack it, the gut-dropping dynamics of cartel coercion and retribution, and the eventual, dramatic trial, del Bosque recounts a true story that reads like crime fiction.
RaveBooklist\"Abdurraqib writes with uninhibited curiosity and insight about music and its ties to culture and memory, life and death, on levels personal, political, and universal. He’s interested in what sells and what’s currency, how music reminds us of who we love or who we’ve lost or who we once were ... Abdurraqib’s poignant critiques, a catalog of the current moment and all that preceded it, inspire us to listen with our whole selves.\
RaveBooklistWeiner’s award-winning writing and producing of such renowned television shows as The Sopranos and Mad Men is neatly evident in his quietly thrilling debut novel. Written in descriptive and illuminating scene-like snippets — though nearly free of dialogue — this one-sitting read concerns the eerily shared delusions of a privileged Manhattan family and a man who stalks the periphery of their lives ... The sense of doom is sharply rendered, characters are well developed, and their motivations are finely wrought. Readers will hope for more book-form fiction from Weiner.
RaveBooklist Journalist Gordon again fascinatingly chronicles the remarkable life of an elite twentieth-century American woman … Readers interested in gardening, art, and interior design will drool over Bunny’s fine tastes, and her ease at fulfilling every one of them, but all lovers of biographies will marvel at Gordon’s portrayal of Bunny’s long life, and the significant figures who buzzed in and out of it.
RaveBooklistEugenides’ first story collection is gifted with the strong voices and luminous prose his novels are known for ... Stories probe aging and agency, sex and death, with Eugenides’ trademark wit and deadpan grace. Cunning, comic, and clueless characters hatch plans to restore their unfairly sapped potential and deal with the results—some successful, some unanticipated, some unsavory—while Eugenides captures the places they’re in, both physical and metaphorical, with precision. Early on, old friends wonder, 'What was it about complaining that felt so good?' Readers will enjoy lamenting that this complete and utterly human collection must, after all, end.
RaveBooklistPoetic, heartrending, soothing, and funny, this is a mind-expanding contemplation of creation, the act and the noun, and the creatures whose deaths we presume will precede ours but whose lives make our own better beyond reason. To this, readers should bring tissues, pencil and paper, even their dogs.
Danielle S. Allen
RaveBooklistAllen, whose writing is creative and accessible, uses her finely tuned talent to fold Michael’s fate into the gathering storms of the U.S. criminal-justice system and Los Angeles’ gang-related and racial turmoil. Both a searching, personal elegy and a sure-footed lamentation of the systems meant to protect us, this is a searing must-read.
PositiveBooklistAn absorbing story ... In his moving first book, Rachlin, with confidence and care, relays both the terrifying personal costs and complex legalities, so dependent on fallible humans, of wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
RaveBooklist...it’s hard to imagine this electrifying book being more personal, candid, or confessional ... The story of her body is, understandably, linked to the story of her life; she tells both, and plumbs discussions about both victims of sexual violence and people whose bodies don’t adhere to the ideal of thinness. In 88 short, lucid chapters, Gay powerfully takes readers through realities that pain her, vex her, guide her, and inform her work. The result is a generous and empathic consideration of what it’s like to be someone else: in itself something of a miracle.
PositiveBooklistRadtke’s neat, grayscale drawings are detailed and coloring-book precise, and her thoughtful, meticulous narration makes true visual essays of them ... n her cerebral journey of a first book, Radtke, an illustrator, designer, and managing editor of a small press, asks and answers: Why do ruins fascinate, and why is this fascination considered perverse? Why are ruins there at all?
RaveBooklistGrann employs you-are-there narrative effects to set readers right in the action, and he relays the humanity, evil, and heroism of the people involved. His riveting reckoning of a devastating episode in American history deservedly captivates.
RaveBooklist...[a] vivid debut ... Though Cat tells her story in flashbacks, Buntin’s prose is emotional and immediate, and the interior lives she draws of young women and obsessive best friends are Ferrante-esque.
PositiveBooklistIn leaving apparent holes or unanswered questions in her layered story, Hoffman is fearless and trusting of her readers, and her precise prose captures the novel’s many settings—Greece, Washington State, New York City—and her characters’ feelings and actions, vividly.
PositiveBooklistWinder effectively stops time and keeps readers drifting through a montage of Monroe’s ’55 datebook. Relying on accounts of those who made up Monroe’s 'blonde orbit,' Winder sometimes delves too deeply into these peripheral lives. Still, this sympathetic portrayal of a brilliant artist who was dying to be taken seriously is full of quotes, anecdotes, and impressions that will please the many who wish they knew her.